Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cables And Wires And Dongles Galore

Faithful readers will recall that I made the plunge into the world of high definition television recently. One of the first things that got hooked up to it was my son’s Wii (which is only 480p for those of you that follow these things).

We had the Magic League (remember them?) and one of the players was wearing an obscure tee shirt with an funny logo. He said it was based on a web cartoon called Making Fiends check them out). Curious, we wanted to watch some sample episodes so we fired up the Wii that has a built in web browser and started watching the deranged but funny cartoons. Unfortunately, the quality was fairly poor and the navigation really clunky. Wiimotes are great for playing games but lousy for typing in url’s.

A couple of weeks later, we were planning our summer vacation with two other families. We’re planning on sharing a vacation rental and we wanted to reach some consensus on which property to get. We used a video to S-video adaptor to send the signal from my wife’s four-year old MacBook to the TV. The image was also grainy, but serviceable. It was also awkward barking commands at my son who was sitting at the laptop running the mouse and keyboard.

I remembered that the TV has a VGA input suitable for a computer. I knew I had a spare VGA cable around but it turned out to be female to male and I needed male to male. Even more than that, the laptop has a non-standard outlet that Apple calls mini-VGA so I needed a mini-VGA to VGA converter and a VGA cable. I daisy-chained that all together and adjusted the resolution on the laptop. Voila! I was surfing the web in crystal clear full color.

My wife gave my the url of a YouTube video she wanted to watch. Youtube videos look awful on a bigscreen no matter what, but the tinny sound out of the laptop was something I could do something about. I had two choices. I could use a 1/8” stereo wire and run it straight from the laptop into the television or I could use a 1/8” jack to RCA cable splitter and use the auxiliary input to the home theater system. I settled on the latter even though YouTube video through anything is just as bad. What did sound good was the full CD listening party stream of the new Hillary McRae album while I was surfing blogs with my feet up on the couch.

While I was at MallStoreOfWires I noticed that they had a very small USB cordless mouse. That would go a long way to freeing me from having to keep the laptop within arms distance. That took a certain amount of experimentation to learn that while the arm of the sofa made a terrible mouse pad, the seat cushion next to me worked fine. Coupled with a Bluetooth keyboard, I can be anywhere in the room as long as my eyesight is keen enough to read the text.

My wife also has a newer PowerBook from work that is, of course, incompatible with with all the adaptors for the MacBook. It’s video connection is mini-DVI which converts to standard DVI which then connects to the TV with a DVI to HDMI cable. The DVI cable resulted in some weird stuff. Program windows (like Firefox) that appeared on the laptop screen wouldn't show up on the television. But then the Mac program Dock only worked on the TV. It was like the set-up was haunted. I gave up and switched back to a VGA cable and fiddled with both the Mac and TV settings until I got a really great full screen image at 1280 x 768 (the internal video card will support higher resolutions, but the TV won't). Still, it's a great image.

So here is the full list of items sitting in the backet o’cables next to the TV:

Mini-VGA to S-video convertor
Mini-VGA to VGA convertor
Mini-DVI to S-video convertor
Mini-DVI to DVI convertor
6 foot DVI to HDMI cable
6 foot male to male VGA cable
6 foot male to female VGA cable
6 foot 1/8” stereo cable
6 foot 1/8” to RCA cable
6 foot S-video cable
USB mouse
Bluetooth keyboard

And that doesn’t include the various sundry Wii peripherals.

The point wasn't to brag or show more pictures of my BigAssTV, but to take some baby steps towards convergence and see what I could lash together using my existing consumer electronics inventory and some cables. Now that I've completed the proof of concept phase, I can move on to exploring online video options and go from there.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Is a 48" monitor too much or not enough?


TBG said...

Tee hee. Yello said "dongle."

Anonymous said...

Back in 96, I worked for a company that was performing desktop system upgrades for a major defense contractor. Go out to a desk, upload all their data, hook up the new computer, download the data. All in all, it was a major clusterf***. I mention it, because we were absolutely forbidden to use the word "dongle" in front of the customers. Our bosses were afraid someone would get offended and complain.

As for monitor size, it depends on what you're doing. Most of the time, it's probably overkill and most things on the net are scaled to look good on screens 1/3 to half that size. Some things might look cool, though, and it might be really nice for video editing or really close detail photo editing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you and I were there for the beginning of MTV. Remember their motto then?

"Too much is never enough."